On the first day of Los Angeles Kings had to survive their own test against a persistent underdog. Though the Washington Capitals had a few excellent chances to win, LA outplayed them early, resisted late, and broke a three-game losing streak., the
The Kings had lost three games in a row going into tonight's contest butthere are two players who were not even a little bit to blame for the skid: Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar. Though the first line had missed some scoring chances and been on the ice for goals against in each of the last three games, Gaborik and Kopitar in particular were generating offense like no one else on the Kings. It was fitting, then, that they combined for the first goal tonight. Justin Williams played the puck down the ice, Gaborik got to it behind the goal line, and Kopitar beat Jaroslav Halak off of Gaborik's pass. Along with Tyler Toffoli and the returning Tanner Pearson, those were the offensive sparks tonight.
Other things happened in the first period as well! Dustin Brown officially returned from a two-game absence; Kyle Clifford fought Tom Wilson; the Kings waited a whole six minutes to get a minor penalty (Jeff Carter); the Capitals didn't get a single scoring chance at even strength; Alec Martinez did this. You know, typical stuff. Then, things also happened in the second period! Halak stopped a partial breakaway for Brown and some chances for the first line; LA held the Caps shotless for nine minutes; Jonathan Quick, eventually, had some work to do. In particular, he stopped a deceptively tricky bouncer by Dmitry Orlov and robbed Dustin Penner on the rebound. (Yep, that's right, a former King didn't score on us tonight. Partyyyy!)
Things that didn't happen in the second period: goals. Even Troy Brouwer trying to pull off a Tomas Hertl and going between his own legs didn't work. So it was still 1-0 heading into the final period, and Washington did a much better job of keeping pace with LA in the third. Eventually, it paid off as Joel Ward got the Caps' only goal of the game. Evgeni Kuznetsov did a good job to find space behind the net and threw it to the front, where Ward's second whack at the puck beat Quick up high. The slightly jittery Kings managed to avoid their second straight come-from-ahead regulation loss, and we went to overtime.
Robyn Regehr (who had been good previously) joined Mike Richards on the list of potential scapegoats by taking a hooking penalty in OT, putting LA in a terrifying position: trying to kill a 3-on-4 against Alexander Ovechkin. Quick denied Brouwer on the doorstep, and Ovechkin's best chance resulted in a whiff, so LA survived the two minutes and got us to a shootout. After Kopitar missed and Kuznetsov scored, LA's back was against the wall. Carter and Gaborik to the rescue! Carter used his trademark backhand, and Gaborik hit the top corner perfectly in the final round.
Consecutive saves by Quick earned him a deserved 171st career win, which ties him with the only goalie whose number is retired in LA: Rogie Vachon. Darryl Sutter picked up the other milestone, as he won his 500th career game. San Jose and Anaheim are still way ahead (and played a barnburner tonight), but the Kings moved one step closer to earning themselves the final guaranteed Pacific Division playoff spot.